Date: 25/2/2024
Trip leader: Vyom Arya
Party: Andrew, Benjamin, Bennett, Callum, Catherine, Cosmo, Hai Son, Jackie, Jasmine, John, Joseph, Kshithija, Ming Suet, Robert, Salome, Samantha, Thomson, Yash, Zelu

This was the second trip that I ran this weekend, after the first one filled up really quickly. Even though I had just done a trip to Wentworth Falls yesterday, this trip had also filled up in less than a day, and I took a group of almost 20 people! I had asked everyone to meet at platform 5 at Central for our Blue Mountains Intercity, but when I got there, there was no train! The helpful staff there let me know that the platform had changed to number 3. This caught a few others out as well, but we all ended up meeting up for the right train. Unfortunately, someone brought along a friend who hadn’t signed up and wasn’t a member either. Please don’t do this!! It’s unfair to everyone else who paid to be there and everyone on the waitlist who was waiting for a spot, not to mention how awkward it is for trip leaders to reject people on the day.

The 2 hour trip to Blackheath passed by without a hitch, with a few people joining in between. The day was much warmer that yesterday, we got off at Blackheath and didn’t really have to put on any extra layers. After a bathroom break at Blackheath town (the one at the station is closed on weekends), we made our way to the start of the Grand Canyon Track. Although the actual bushwalk is only about 8 km, going to and from the train station adds 7 more kilometres. To avoid walking along the Great Western Highway, you can go through suburban streets, making your way to Braeside Firetrail instead. Joe told us that Brae is a Scottish word for a hillside, which had been carved out by glaciers back in Scotland. Although I had written in the trip description that this was a trip only for people comfortable with walking 15 km, a few complete beginners had signed up, which made the group slower than yesterday’s. I don’t really have a problem with that though as long as you have a good attitude to getting the hike done, and I think it’s great that beginners are giving it a shot! This also means that for some people it’s an opportunity to learn some valuable lessons that others might see as common sense, such as not bringing a laptop along on a hike!

Braeside Firetrail

Anyways, after a short road bash, we made it to the start of the Grand Canyon Track. It was almost half past one by this point, so we decided to have our lunch break at the not-exactly-scenic trailhead carpark. After lunch, we began the actual Grand Canyon Track at 1:45. Although the sign at the beginning advises 3-4 hours for this track, I told everyone to keep an eye on how much time we actually end up taking as NPWS signage is usually an exaggeration to keep people safe. The initial descent down was very wet from rain the previous days, but fortunately no one got their shoes completely ruined.

Grand Canyon Track

I had never done the Grand Canyon Track before; it had stayed on my bucket list ever since I landed in Sydney. It was obvious as soon as I started however why it was described as one of the most scenic tracks in the Blue Mountains. The waterflows, rock formations, and vegetation made for a stunning experience.

Grand Canyon Track

We spotted quite a few dragons/lizards on our way too, basking in the sun on various rocks.

Reptiles in the sun

Although the initial part of the track is quite narrow, it begins to open up in places farther down along the stream. After a quick group photo in one such opening, we continued on.

Happy faces before the ascent back up

We had to go through a tunnel carved out of the rock to continue, which opened up to a gorgeous waterfall which you could walk behind. As expected, the photography brigade was out in full force on this track (me included).

Cool waterfall

The stream widens at the latter half of the track, at which point the track goes along the banks with countless stream crossings.

The canyon widens out

Joe had wanted to check out the Beauchamp Falls from here, but unfortunately that track and all others heading down to the Grose Valley have been closed after the devastating rainfall and flooding in the years prior. What comes down must eventually come up, which was made very clear to everyone at the start of the ascent back up to Evans Lookout. I decided to stay at the back of the group just to make sure that everyone was going at their own pace and no one would be pressured to walk fast. People who got there first would wait for the back of the group at the lookout. My concern ended up being necessary as one of the girls got very tired going back up. Her symptoms were characteristic of common hiker’s fatigue, when your body runs out of energy or sugar to keep going. It’s pretty common for beginners to have a trip where they find out about their limit in a harsh way.

Views on the way up

The best way to deal with a situation like this is just to take it very slowly, at their own pace. Give them energy if you’ve got it, and luckily, she had a KitKat bar to keep her going. Unfortunately, what hadn’t helped was running on little sleep and drinking caffeine to make up for it. Don’t drink caffeinated drinks before exercise! They’re a diuretic, basically meaning you get dehydrated much quicker, while also giving your body the illusion of having a lot of energy (before the caffeine crash eventually hits). Thankfully, the situation never escalated to anything close to an emergency, so we just took it slow and steady until we got to the top. We tried our luck with calling an Uber from Evan’s Lookout, but this far out of Sydney we’d have to have been very lucky to get one. She said she was feeling fine after the climb however, so she decided to keep going with us.

Evans Lookout

The view at Evan’s Lookout is impressive, it was my first time seeing the view despite having been here twice before this (both times were in the middle of the night to see meteor showers). I had wrongly thought that Evan’s Lookout had drinking water, but the only tap there clearly had a sign saying it wasn’t suitable for drinking. Some people had run out of water on the climb back up, but others had plenty extra. So, we decided to keep going rather than turn back down the road and to share water if someone needed it. The hardest part of the bushwalk was behind us, it was an easy 3 kilometres Govetts Leap Lookout. We stopped at the Bridal Veil Falls on the way, which previously on my meteor shower trips I had only ever heard.

A break at Bridal Veil Falls

We finally reached Govetts Leap Lookout, from where it was just a matter of following the road back to Blackheath Station. Most people really enjoyed the trip, as the Grand Canyon is a really cool place to visit. The girl earlier was totally fine after Evans Lookout, so it was definitely just a case of getting used to hiking long distances. Some of the beginners even commented about wanting to go on more trips so they could get better, so that was a great outcome!